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Small firms urged to claim rates rebate

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Many small firms risk losing out on backdated rates relief, a business group has warned.

Claims need to be submitted by the end of September, the Forum of Private Business (FSB) said.

Any small business occupying commercial premises between 1 April 2007 and April 2010 could be entitled to money back, but large numbers of firms will miss out on Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) unless they act now.

The FSB estimated that as much as £200 million of the £500 million on offer in rebates could go begging because businesses are not aware of their entitlement.

Rebates of up to 50 per cent are available on properties with a rateable value of up to £5,000, with the refund reduced on a sliding scale for premises with valuations up to £10,000.

The FSB argued that too few local councils have provided details about the rebate.

Andrew Bacon, the FSB’s property adviser, said: “Claiming backdated SBRR before the 30 September 2010 deadline could mean that a small business paying £5,000 a year in rent gets a cheque from the council that is enough to cover its overheads until March 2011, just for filling in a form.

“Unfortunately, most councils are saying nothing about the issue and many are handing out forms that actually prevent businesses from backdating their claims. This is an issue we first highlighted back in 2008 and, despite assurances that it would be tackled, the problem persists.

“Time is running out, so it is important to act now. The simple solution is for every business to send in the correct claim form before 30 September 2010. Those who are not eligible will simply be rejected, but those that are eligible will get the money they deserve.”

Businesses are also being reminded that that, from October 2010, SBRR is set to increase in England.

Businesses with a rateable value of less than £6,000 will pay no business rates for a year. Previously, they received a 50 per cent discount.

Taper relief, from 100 per cent to 0 per cent, will also be in place for properties with rateable values for that period of over £6,000 and up to £12,000.

Additionally, Empty Property Relief has been extended for 2010-11 so that all empty properties with a rateable value below £18,000 are exempted from business rates.

Similar business rate relief schemes operate in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.